The Empanada Party – Part 4 – Pumpkin Picarones

This is the last installment of my Empanada Party series. The Empanada Party – Part 1 – Beef Empanadas; The Empanada Party – Part 2 – Chicken Empanadas; The Empanada Party – Part 3 – Una Gran Ensalada Latina We are ending on a very sweet note. Today, I bring you dessert. Today, I bring you pumpkin picarones or pumpkin donuts. We served them with ice cream and a light brown sugar sauce. I made the dough ahead of time and kept it in the refrigerator until we were ready to use it. By refrigerating it, the dough would not rise any more than I wanted it to.

Picarones are found all over Peru. Like a lot of recipes, they were created by accident and then became a huge and very popular dessert all over Peru. They were first created as a replacement for the traditional bunuelos, which were a type of donut brought over from the Spanish conquistadors, around 300 years ago. The bunuelos were becoming to expensive for the locals to make and the ingredients were hard to find, so they started improvising and using local and regional ingredients, such as squash (pumpkin) and sweet potatoes. In Peru, they are usually made with fermented chicha, or a fizzy Andean corn beer, but yeast is a good substitute, and here in the United states, yeast is much more readily available. Once the donuts are made, they are served in a syrup that was originally made from solidified molasses, known as chancaca or or with a panela syrup. I usually only make them with pumpkin, but the traditional recipe calls for both pureed sweet potato and pumpkin.

Picarones con Salsa Panela

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 tsp + 1 1/2 TBSP sugar

2 tsp dry active yeast

1/4 cup milk

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1/2 tsp salt

2 TBSP butter, melted

1 can pureed pumpkin

2 3/4-3 cups flour

canola or peanut oil for frying the donuts

Mix the water, 1 tsp of sugar and the yeast together and let sit for about 5-10 minutes, or until it becomes foamy and frothy.

Mix the egg, milk and melted butter together and add to the yeast mixture when it is ready.

Then add the pumpkin and/or sweet potato (cup) and whisk together until is is all blended together and smooth. Next, add the flour and mix together until you have a soft, sticky dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Add more flour as needed. Shape into a ball and cover to let rise for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough and let it stand for about 10 minutes, before starting to work with it. Pull off small pieces of the dough and form into small balls, about the size of a walnut. Roll the dough ball into a thin rope, then bring then ends together to form a circle and pinch tightly.

Su, Elizabeth, Peggy and Amy are starting to work on the donut making process.

Our donuts were all different sizes, but they were all delicious.

Linda and Lauren were supervising, making sure the donuts came out just right.

Once the donuts are all prepared, get the oil to 360* F or 190* C. Then carefully add a few donuts at a time, making sure NOT to overcrowd them. Fry them for about 2-3 minutes, or until they start to rise to the top and they are golden brown and puffy. Drain them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil before serving.

Su is frying up the picarones.

They have passed inspection. The donut ladies have all given them the thumbs up and the OK sign.

As the donuts are draining, make the panela sauce.

Panela Sauce or Salsa de Panela

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup water

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 TBSP orange zest

1/4 cup spiced rum, optional

1-2 TBSP lavender sugar, optional

Place everything together in a saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until all the sugar is melted and you have a smooth, liquid sauce. Immediately pour over the donuts and serve. Ice cream is optional, but it is a good addition.

Peggy, Elizabeth and Amy are busy plating up the picarones and topping them with the panela sauce. They were oh so good too.

These are best when eaten fresh and hot, and eat them you will. They will literally just melt in your mouth. You’re going to LOVE these little pumpkin picarones. The dough makes a lot, so make them all up and share with friends and loved ones. You will be very popular indeed. 🙂

Stay cool, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.


Author: ajeanneinthekitchen

I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for over 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.

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